Julie Gough, Francisca Moenne, Robert O'Connor
8 June- 27 July 2017, 146 ArtSPACE, Hobart
Black Matter (Stage 1): Origin was assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for the Arts
In late 2016 I spent almost a week stranded in a frontier town, Puerto Natales, in the region known as Última Esperanza (Last Hope). One of four provinces in the southern Chilean region of Magallanes and Antártica Chilena (XII), the Sound of Última Esperanza, was named by Captain Juan de Ladrillero, who in 1557 went searching for the western entrance to the Strait of Magellan.
I am still processing what I witnessed, and human encounters and relationships formed during 72 days in Chile in October-December 2016. This piece is my first rendition or reflection on the residency. Other responses will emerge in their own time. I decided for now to work on the footage I made, in boredom and fascination, of the dogs on the streets of this town. They appear to live alongside humans, rather than being ‘owned’ by them. This independence, like so much in Chile, reveals a parallel world, similar to, yet not Tasmania. Time spent editing this footage enabled me to see how much more information is evident than I absorbed with the naked eye. Trying to locate where I filmed these dogs on online maps of the town led me to find some of them, like old friends, on GOOGLE STREET view (2014).
Puerto Natales has expanded and rebranded to cater to wealthy tourists on the glacier trail, and it is difficult to find its other stories. The process of making this preliminary film artwork from almost random footage, plus my subsequent, recent, detective-like search for the dogs, younger, online, has caused me to reflect on how and what to make artwork about after or while on foreign soil. How much is too much, what is cultural tourism, what is respectful, what are our differences and our commonalities.
In 2016, I returned to my native country to follow the trail of the Nothofagus. I travelled across the Central Province of Chile down to the Region of Magallanes. exploring the areas where my family had migrated from France and Italy in late 19th century. As my ancestral history unfolded in Chile, the memory of Baudin’s Tasmanian expedition in
1802 wove the past and the present revealing unexplored cosmologies that link botanical and human displacement to place and identity.
We are on an Ahab quest in search of Nothing… We invent this vague term called dark matter and assign it to something of which we don’t know it’s properties… I guess it’s similar to how astronomers use the word “dark” as a euphemism, meaning we don't really understand it or we can't see it… and so we get “dark matter” and “dark energy”.
By definition we do not know what they are and they might be two completely different things… Maybe not… The point is that we can sense these things without seeing them… Black Matter is everywhere and when we find it we can figure out what it is, how it works, and what we can do with it. Then we can label it, and it is destroyed… that is what language does.
We are trapping matter with language.
These paintings are maps of Santiago… Each image within the painting denotes a personal experience or a physical location or a piece of folklore or slang… They make sense like that… They grew naturally over a three-month period… I did most of it… others added their own stories too… It’s Black Matter… I don’t know what it means.